Where do stories come from? With historical fiction, perhaps it seems more obvious – an event in the past, or a remarkable real-life character is often the spark for a fictional tale. The Perfume Garden interweaves a contemporary story with the Spanish Civil War, and there are certainly plenty of real events, and battles, and incredible individuals like the war photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, and writers like Hemingway and Gellhorn. The inspiration for this story lies closer to home, though.
I grew up in a remote, wild part of the UK, between Exmoor and Dartmoor in the south-west of the country. Our closest neighbours were a glamorous couple, who were renting an old farmhouse. She had been a costume designer for Fellini, and he did something vague that involved lots of phone calls to Brazil. They were flamboyant, and charming, poured lethal Gin and Tonics, and told wonderful tales about how they had met in Paris. One night I overheard my father tell my mother that the husband had fought in the Spanish Civil War – on the Nationalist side.
|author Kate Lord Brown|
That stayed with me – the thought that someone you knew, and had liked, could have fought for the side that overthrew a democratically elected government, confused me. Were all Nationalists fascists? Were all Republicans communists? Over the years, I started reading about the war, and when I studied photography at university, I learnt about Capa, and Taro, and their remarkable work in Spain. When my husband and I ended up living in the orange groves of Valencia for three years, I found that even the younger generation quickly changed the subject if you asked them about the war. I was curious, and ten years ago started to research and write this story of a family, of a beautiful country torn apart by conflict. I hope it’s a tribute to the remarkable sacrifices ordinary people make for freedom, and the ones they love.